The last of the nine Norse worlds that we are going to look at are Niflheim, NIF-el-hame or World of Fog, and Muspelheim, The World of Múspell. Niflheim is the land of primordial darkness, cold, mist, and ice and is the opposite cosmological principle of Muspelheim, the world of fire and heat.
According to Sturluson the first being, the giant Ymir, was born when ice from Niflheim and fire from Muspelheim met in the middle of Ginnungagap, the abyss that had formerly separated them. Unfortunately Sturluson is the only one to mention Niflheim and it is not found in earlier Norse writings. What is found in the earlier poems is "Niflhel" which is probably an emblishment of "Hel" the world of the dead. I have not visited Niflheim so I can't tell you if it really exists or it is a fiction created by Sturlson.
Like Niflheim, Muspelheim is only recorded in Surluson's Prose Edda. The image the I see in my mind when I think of Muspelheim is the true land of fire and brimstone, a place of burning sulfur. The word and the idea that Muspelheim denotes most likely goes back to the Proto-Germanic period because cognates of Múspell can be found in Old High German and Old Saxon. Its oldest meaning seems to have been “end of the world through fire.” In pre-Surluson Old Norse poetry, the word seems to refer to a giant who leads his people or sons into battle against the gods during Ragnarok. Thus Muspelheim may represent an event as much as it represents a place.
In Norse cosmology it appears that time is more circular than linear. Ragnarok, The Doom of the Gods, is the name the pre-christian Norse gave to the end of their mythical cycle, during which the cosmos is destroyed and is subsequently re-created. Thus destruction is not permanent but rather the end is also a new beginning. Something that is good for us to remember.
I hope that you have enjoyed this series of posts. In previous posts we worked through core shamanism and Andean shamanism. Note that these two links take you back to the first post in each sequence and if you want to read the sequence then you will have to start at the bottom and work up to get them in chronological order. In my next series of posts we will explore the Celtic world and Celtic shamanism . . . the place where I feel most at home.
Thanks for reading,
I'm Dr. Dave, a modern druid. I lived and worked in Bolivia and Peru for over six years, where I and was trained by Andean Shamans, and today practice Druidcraft, eclectic shamanism and Ayurveda.